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Resting in the Lord

November 2nd, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3a ESV)

The most beloved psalm in the Bible is Psalm 23, the Shepherd Psalm. In it he professes his faith that the Lord provides all that he needs. David divides life into three main categories: rest, work, and difficulty. Rest comes first in life, for we are born helpless and we need rest as adults in order to survive. We cannot live without sleep, without protection, or without nourishment. The Lord knows all of these things, so He inspired David to begin the psalm with rest.

Work and trouble will both come in their time, but first we need rest. Not only physical rest but spiritual rest as well. We need the nourishment that the Spirit gives to our souls.

Alexander Maclaren, the great Scottish pastor, wrote:

The psalm puts the rest and refreshment first, as being the most marked characteristic of God’s dealings. After all, it is so … But it is not mainly of outward blessings that the Psalmist is thinking. They are precious chiefly as emblems of the better spiritual gifts; … the image describes the sweet rest of the soul in communion with God, in whom alone the hungry heart finds food that satisfies, and from whom alone the thirsty soul drinks draughts deep and limpid enough. This rest and refreshment has for its consequence the restoration of the soul, which includes in it both the invigoration of the natural life by the outward sort of these blessings, and the quickening and restoration of the spiritual life by the inward feeding upon God and repose in Him. (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture)

The Lord will certainly also lead us in paths of righteousness - so rest is not an end in itself, but rather it serves the purpose to prepare us for works of righteousness. But if we do not have true spiritual strength, gained by grace through faith, we will seek to serve Him in our own strength. That will be both exhausting and ineffective.

So not to rest, not to be restored first, or not to regularly abide in Him and receive His investment in our souls, is a prideful thing. Surely we will then be seeking to build temples that God has not authorized us to build - to use an analogy from David’s life.

A woodsman was known for his skill with an axe, for being able to cut down more trees than any other worker. When asked his secret he said that it was simple. After every tree that he cut down, he stopped for a few minutes to sit in the shade and sharpen his axe. I am convinced that the secret to accomplishing much for God is to also take time to let Him sharpen the axe of our soul, to strengthen us inwardly and to prepare us by His Spirit.

Without this first step we will neither serve well, nor will we endure trouble well. All else that is written in this psalm hangs upon David taking time to let God restore his soul. All that we achieve of lasting benefit to the work of God is done also because we served in His strength and not our own. God’s purpose for us does not end in our rest alone, but until we rest in Him our service will never be effectively done.

Take time to rest, physically and spiritually, in God.

If you are struggling with burnout, I recommend to you my little book: Burnout: Causes and Recovery . It is available on amazon.

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